It was 5:30 on a Monday morning, and Joel Heipp was already in mid-day form.

Outside on what would turn out to be a rainy day, Heipp was cleaning the front windows and glass doors of Bottino’s ShopRite in Washington Township, Gloucester County.

Never has there been more of an emphasis on cleanliness, especially in buildings with essential businesses like supermarkets. Heipp has his own company, appropriately named “Windows by Joel," and the supermarket hired him that day to do his thing.

Heipp’s business has been hurt by the pandemic, but that is something for later. For now, he takes what he does seriously and also realizes that there is potential risk, anytime somebody is in public, working with cleaning dirt.

“Absolutely, there is some fear," he said. "I have to be attentive.”

Joel Heipp
Marc Narducci/Staff
Joel Heipp

His work isn’t easy, especially reaching up for the high windows with his long squeegee, getting every inch of the windows cleaned.

Yet the greatest satisfaction is when customers take notice of his work.

“I have had many comments over time,” he said. “I do remember an older lady approached me and said, ‘You’re the person,’ and I didn’t understand what she meant. She said, ‘You are the guy who keeps this glass so clean.’”

For somebody in his profession, it doesn’t get any better.

Heipp often gets up early, even before the pandemic affected the start of his day. He prefers working first thing in the morning, not having to hit rush-hour traffic from his home in Marlton, Burlington County. But he insists he’ll apply his cleaning trade any time of the day.

“I am an old man. I get to sleep early, especially now, so I don’t mind getting up early,” he said. “I am 55, but I don’t look a day over 54.”

Cleaning windows can be a lonely endeavor, but Heipp is a gregarious sort, who enjoys greeting people — these days, from a distance.

“The customers love me,” he said.

He works and talks at the same time, never losing focus on either.

“The best thing is I have met so many people over the years who are hard-working and go in stores day in and day out,” he said. “These are people I engage with and it is so much fun.”

He has been cleaning windows for about 10 years. He began by helping a friend and learning the nuances of the business. A few years ago he decided to go out on his own.

He has cleaned the windows in places such as liquor stores and restaurants, but since the pandemic, he has lost quite a bit of work.

“People aren’t going in and out of doors,” he said. “So I haven’t been needed as much.”

He says he hopes that business can pick up, but despite the loss of revenue, he is keeping things well in perspective, with a clean outlook.

“Every day of my life I am happy for what I have,” he said. “I can only accept what the reality is: I am making the best of what I have each and every day.”